AFP: Iran's judiciary on Tuesday ordered the arrest of the director of a leading reformist newspaper over an article attacking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his remarks on the Shiites' "hidden imam."
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's judiciary on Tuesday ordered the arrest of the director of a leading reformist newspaper over an article attacking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his remarks on the Shiites' "hidden imam."
Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, director of Etemad Melli newspaper, has been issued with an order for arrest and investigation on charges of spreading lies and publishing "an insulting piece", a spokesman for Tehran public and revolutionary courts told the ISNA student agency.
The spokesman said the "insulting" article was written by mid-ranking cleric Rasoul Montajab-Nia in Tuesday's edition of Etemad Melli (National Confidence) — the newspaper of a reformist party with the same name.
In the article, Montajab-Nia listed several comments attributed to Ahmadinejad on the twelfth imam, known as the Mahdi, who Shiites believe disappeared more than a thousand years ago and will return one day to usher in a new era of peace and harmony.
"The president and his advisors are frequently heard to say that this government is managed by the imam," wrote Montajab-Nia who is also a senior member of the Etemad Melli party.
"Such rumours weaken people's beliefs and lead to ridicule by the enemies of Islam and Shiism," he said.
"If these are true, what do you mean by saying such unreal things? Do you think such remarks can justify the government's mismanagement in the face of people's discontent and complaints about inflation?" he asked.
Ahmadinejad has always been a devotee of the Mahdi, and he has already come under fire by clerics over his remarks.
Earlier this year, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani complained that superstition was growing in the country and that people were even putting out food for the Mahdi in case he returned that very night.
Ahmadinejad also raised eyebrows when he said he felt surrounded by a mystical aurora when he gave his first speech to the UN General Assembly in New York in 2005.
The Etemad Melli party is headed by influential reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, who was Iran's parliament speaker from 2000 to 2004 and a rival of Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.
Haghshenas — who is currently on a visit to Saudi Arabia along with Karroubi — said the publication of the piece that had orginally appeared on Montajab-Nia's weblog was indefensible.
"I will go to the judiciary on my return to Tehran and make the necessary explanations," he told ISNA.
Montajab-Nia himself told the Fars news agency: "I had written this article a while ago on my site and the newspaper directors published it without my knowing."
Ahmadinejad's press advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, slammed the Etemad Melli article as a "propagandist, political trick to disturb the public mind and create disunity and cynicism among officials," ISNA said.
Fars quoted an informed source in the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance as saying that the paper had received a written warning.
"No order has been issued to ban the paper, although there should be an emergency meeting of the press watchdog over the case," the source told Fars.